Gerald Murnane

AHistoryOfBooksAdult Fiction Author

Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939, spent part of his childhood in country districts of Victoria and moved back to Melbourne in 1949. In recent years he has been living in Western Victoria.

Gerald's book Something for the Pain: A Memoir of the Turf is the winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Non-Fiction. It was published by Text in September 2015. This unique and candid memoir tells the story of Gerald's life through the lens of horse racing, a fascination which began when he was a young boy. 

SomethingForThePainThe judge's report said:

"Something for the Pain is classic Gerald Murnane: eccentric, intriguing, and moving in a deeply tectonic way. Consisting of chapters that each reflect differently on the author's love of – nay, obsession with – horseracing, and jumping back and forth in time, this kind-of-autobiography is a corner piece in the jigsaw of Murnane's oeuvre."

See the rest of the judge's report here.

 "Something for the Pain should be recommended especially to those who shy away from literary modernism. Murnane is a writer of the greatest skill and tonal control. Reading his description of the death of a racehorse in the arms of its owner-trainer at Flemington racecourse, tears rolled down my cheeks."

~ BRUCE MILLAR, Financial Times 

Read the whole Financial Times review here as well as other in-depth reviews of the book in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Lifted Brow.

Gerald's latest book, Landscape with Landscape, was republished by Giramondo in July 2016, thirty years after its initial publication. It was his fourth book and first collection of short fiction. From the Giramondo website:

"When [Landscape with Landscape] was first published, thirty years ago, it was cruelly reviewed. ‘I feel sorry for my fourth-eldest, which of all my book-children was the most brutally treated in its early years,’ Murnane writes in his foreword to this new edition. In hindsight it can be seen to contain some of his best writing, and to offer a wide-ranging exploration of the different landscapes which make up the imagination of this extraordinary Australian writer. Five of the six loosely connected stories also trace a journey through the suburbs of Melbourne in the 1960s, as the writer negotiates the conflicting demands of Catholicism and sex, self-consciousness and intimacy, alcohol and literature. The sixth story, ‘The Battle of Acosta Nu', is remarkable for its depth of emotion, as it imagines a Paraguayan man imagining a country called Australia, while his son sickens and dies before his eyes."

See this review from The Australian.

"As with Kafka’s fiction, 'The Battle of Acosta Nu' can be understood as satire or allegory or coded confession, and it is among the best short stories written in this country."

~ SHANNON BURNS, The Australian

AMillionWindows

Gerald's previous book, A Million Windows, was published by Giramondo in June 2014. It was shortlisted for the biennial Adelaide Festival Awards for Litertature, 2016. This work focuses on the importance of trust, and the possibility of betrayal, in storytelling as in life. It tests the relationship established between author and reader, and on occasions of intimacy, between child and parent, boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife.

"A Million Windows is also something of a pattern book ... In its pages a narrator attempts to rescue small human markers from the broader landscape of a lifetime's accumulated memory. He is a metaphysical gumshoe, tracking images across the years: recurrences that might yield some meaning to the perceiving self."

~ GEORDIE WILLIAMSON, The Australian

"An exploration of the mind and of literary creation, it is a book of intricate construction and vast intellectual scope."

~ JAMES McNAMARA, The New York Times.

Read the entire review from the New York Times here

His previous collection, A History of Books, (Giramondo, 2012) was shortlisted in the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. In 2009, he won the Melbourne Prize for Literature. The judges described Murnane’s work as one of "extraordinary originality. He has steadily carved out a truly unique space in Australian literature." Also see J.M. Coetzee's essay on Gerald's works in The New York Review of Books.

TamariskRow

Gerald is the author of many other works of fiction. The first, Tamarisk Row (1974), was reprinted in February 2008 in a new edition by Giramondo Publishing. This was followed by A Lifetime on Clouds (1976), The Plains (1982, also published in the USA by George Braziller in 1985), Landscape with Landscape (1985), Inland (1988, also published in Sweden by Brutus Ostlings Bokforlag Symposion in 1995 and by Dalkey Archive Press in the USA in 2012), Velvet Waters (1990, also published in Italian by CIS Publishers in 1994), Emerald Blue (1995), Barley Patch (2009) and A History of Books (2012). Many of Murnane’s books were finalists for various other Australian literary prizes and Velvet Waters won the Fellowship of Australian Writers Barbara Ramsden Award. Murnane won a special prize at the 2007 NSW Premiers Awards and, along with Christopher Koch, he won the 2008 Writers' Emeritus Award from the Australia Council. 

Barley Patch107150

Barley Patch, published in 2009 by Giramondo, was Murnane's first new work of fiction for fourteen years. It has since been published in the USA by Dalkey Archive Press (2011) and in Sweden (2012) as Korntappa. The book begins with the question, Must I write? What follows is a remarkable account of the images that have appeard in the author's mind during a career of over thirty years as a reader and writer. Murnane creates an enchanting chronicle of the world in his mind through the stories he weaves around these images.

Reviewers and critics have differed sharply over Murnane’s fiction, however it is highly regarded by academics. Tamarisk Row was described in Nation Review as the best novel to have appeared in Australia for many years. Murnane was once described in The Australian as the most original Australian writer of his generation. His most widely read book, The Plains, was called by one critic ‘a classic of our literature’. It is studied at a number of Australian Universities. 

In October 2006, Murnane emerged as a contender for the world's most significant literary prize, the Nobel. According to British bookmaker Ladbrokes, he was 33/1 to be named the 2006 laureate. Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk (who had been listed by Ladbrokes as 5/2 favourite) was in fact the winner and received his prize in Stockholm in December of that year. Each year since then he has figured in the listings.

Murnane and some of his writing were the subject of a film, Words and Silk, which won Best Documentary prizes at the San Francisco and Houston Film Festivals of 1991.

Murnane won the Patrick White Award in November 1999 at a stage when none of his books was in print in Australia. This award is presented annually to a writer whose work, in the opinion of the judges, “has not received adequate recognition”. Text Publishing righted this wrong by releasing The Plains in 2001. It was published in the USA in 2003 by Western Michigan University with a Foreword by Andrew Zawacki. It was also published as Slatterna in Sweden in 2005 by Albert Bonniers Forlag. Bonniers also published Velvet Waters in Swedish in 2009 and followed this up with Barley Patch in 2012. The Swedish translation of The Plains, by Caj Lundgren. attracted wonderful reviews:

"Gerald Murnane's writing has inspired a number of interpretations, studies and close readings, actually not very different from the kind of near-sighted scrutiny that the inhabitants of the plains excel in, giving rise to a variety of contradictory theories and groupings. The author, as it were, comments and parodies in advance his future critics, and the critical essay on The Plains is in its own way already incorporated in it. This is not as complicated as it sounds. Murnane may be a demanding and utterly thought-provoking writer, but he is not difficult to read. Of course one can read the story just as it is, full of feeling, poetic and evasive, a description of an enigmatic parallel world quite close to our own. Murnane's style is breathtakingly beautiful. The language is both crystal clear and dreamlike. Irresistibly it draws the reader into the suggestive inner landscape that the continually working film-maker never manages - or wants to - grasp."

~ Svenska Dagbladet

"In Gerald Murnane's novel there is an eccentric will to understand, a yearning, a passion that adds magic to the rest."

~ Dagens Nyheter

"Trying a strictly allegorical reading makes you feel idiotic. Murnane obviously wants to mirror and mock the imaginative power and conceit of so-called civilized and cultured people."

~ Pia Bergstrom

Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs, A collection of essays was published in 2005 by Giramondo Publishing. Albert Bonniers Forlag published the title essay from this collection, about Proust, in both Swedish and English in a book edited by Sara Arrhenius and Magnus Bergh, to accompany an Art Exhibition in Stockholm in the Northern Autumn of 2007: Anachronisms.